Confusion after India's notice suspending visa services in Canada removed, then reappears

Sep 21, 2023 02:32 PM IST

New Delhi has suspended the visa services for Canadian nationals indefinitely amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

There was confusion for a brief period on Thursday afternoon after the ticker on BLS International Website of the Indian Mission in Canada was briefly removed on the suspension of visa services till further notice for operational reasons.

The Indian flag is seen flying at the High Commission of India in Ottawa on Wednesday. (AP)
The Indian flag is seen flying at the High Commission of India in Ottawa on Wednesday. (AP)

The Indian Mission has once again updated its Visa Application page on BLS International reinstating the ticker.

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As per BLS International, interested visa applicants have been advised to keep checking the BLS website for further updates on the issue.

"Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice. Please keep checking BLS website for further updates," the BLS website says.

BLS International Services Limited is an Indian outsourcing service provider for government and diplomatic missions worldwide. The company manages visa, passport, consular, attestation and citizen services.

On Wednesday, Indian nationals, students in Canada and those planning on travelling to the country were advised to exercise caution. Indian nationals and Indian students in Canada were advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen growing anti-India activities, according to a release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

New Delhi has suspended the visa services for Canadian nationals indefinitely amid heightened tensions between the two countries even as Ottawa said it was temporarily adjusting staff presence in India to ensure the safety of diplomats following threats received on social media.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation of Indian involvement in Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing heightened the tensions and triggered a diplomatic row, and tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats this week.

An Indian official confirmed the suspension but refused to comment further. “The language is clear and it says what it is intended to say.” This is the first time India has suspended visas since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The suspension followed India’s advisory on Wednesday asking its citizens in Canada to exercise utmost caution due to growing anti-India activities and “politically-condoned hate crimes”. Indian students have particularly been advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant.

Meanwhile, speaking on India issuing an advisory for Indian nationals and students in Canada, Union minister of state Subhash Sarkar told news agency ANI, “We have the concern of the safety of every citizen, every child of the country at all time. At the time of the Ukraine War also. Our government protected every citizen of the country wherever there were problems all over in the world.”

Tension over Hardeep Singh Nijjar killing

Nijjar was gunned down in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara that he headed in the town of Surrey in the province of British Columbia. He was the principal figure of the secessionist outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) in the province. The SFJ has blamed India for the assassination

A spokesperson for Canada’s foreign ministry told the Canadian newspaper The National Post that some diplomats received threats on social media platforms. “...Global Affairs Canada [the foreign ministry] is assessing its staff complement in India. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India. All of our locations are staffed by diplomats and locally engaged staff to ensure business and operational continuity.”

Canada has sought additional security around its missions including the high commission in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru.

The spokesperson cited the Vienna Convention for safeguarding diplomats and diplomatic premises, and added that they “expect India to provide for the security of our accredited diplomats and consular officers in India, just as we are for theirs here.”

Security has been enhanced at India’s missions in Canada as well for the senior diplomats after SFJ released the “Kill India” posters in July and then a series of others that blamed New Delhi for Nijjar’s killing on June 18.

India has sought additional security at the high commission in Ottawa and consulates in Toronto and Vancouver after SFJ issued a threat to “shut down Indian missions” on September 25, describing them as “terror houses.”

SFJ, which was banned in India in 2019 because of its pro-Khalistan activities, has threatened Hindus of Indian origin and asked them to leave Canada “for supporting” the country of their origin and “promoting violence” by celebrating Nijjar’s assassination.


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